I walked up to the office and paid for two nights; one of the more expensive sites so far. It is advertised as the “closest KOA” to the park entrance, so I guess that’s the reason. But the ride to the gate is over 30 minutes so it’s not like we are camping “close” to the park. Regardless, I am happy to not sleep at the side of the road. So far, we haven’t had to use Walmart’s generosity, but nice to know it is an option.
Back to the park for more in-depth sightseeing, actually getting out of the car and looking at the sights instead of just driving through. We park near El Capitan and walk the trails on the opposite side of the mountain. Larry, a man on a bicycle, warns us that a senior citizen brigade is on the way and we should be careful. I guess he is the advance rider. A man in a Twins hat ambles by and I ask “Minnesota?”, he smiles and says “A long time ago. I forget I’m wearing the hat.” I end up talking with Larry, he was last here in 1982 when his son was little and is surprised at all the changes, especially the people. He is again here with his son who is now also a Dad and introducing the grandchild to nature.
I realize that most people enjoy the park only through pictures. They drive through, stop the car, and either take a picture through an open window or jump out, snap, and jump back in. Unfortunately, I am also guilty of this, sometimes more focused on the prize photograph than stopping to enjoy the subject. I don’t take the time to “stop and smell the roses” and my trip aim of enjoying the ride instead of pushing to the destination hasn’t materialized.
Is a picture worth a thousand words? Sometimes I think so, especially when standing in awe and looking at El Capitan or Half Dome through a viewfinder. I feel good here, even with all the people and a theme park like infrastructure. Imagine the feeling of the first to stumble across the valley or those tasked in the 1800’s with surveying it for the government. Were they giddy in anticipation of divvying up the expected riches? I am seeing it in a developed state, surrounded by strangers, and it is still inspiring!
Mabel and I restricted our visit to the Yosemite Valley, and in retrospect, I would have liked to see more of the park. In order to compare parks, I feel you must experience them at the same level. If you hike one then you should hike them all to make an accurate comparison. For most of the parks (Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Gettysburg, etc.) the bulk of our time has been spent on the main attractions, and usually as a spectator from the car. But there is a lot more to see and time was the restraining factor. Mabel and I did park in a sketchy spot near the Half Dome Village. I wasn’t sure how long I could park where I did or if it was an actual spot; we just pulled in next to a few other RVs. It did allow for us to walk a number of paths, which I later found out were not dog friendly. The National Parks have a strict dog accessibility policy and I think we broke them a few times, but no one ever told me “No”, so we pressed on.
We were able to get close to El Capitan, which had a hold over me and I would have liked more time. But wherever I was in the park, I could feel its presence, it’s the matriarch in the room, silently asserting its authority over the rest of the valley. The area was “target rich” for photographs and I missed the Nikon but ended up happy with what I was able to catch. Even with the Nikon, truly capturing the opulence at my skill level would have been hard. In a way, only having one camera option to shoot with, allowed me to see more while not focusing on my focusing. The valley was rich with color; greens splashed with yellows, a blue sky fighting for control with puffy white clouds, (why do I always think of titanium white when I look at clouds?) and the brown earth struggling with mixed colored streams.
There are spots where others have walked, unofficial paths that you feel the need to avoid, but the view demands you trek further. For all the people that visit, I noticed very little police/ranger presence, and felt comfortable being a dog rebel with Mabel. And maybe that’s the reason for the unofficial paths.
I was starting to feel the need to get away from the people so Mabel and I left the Valley through the tunnel and parked on the side of the road. We walked off into the woods by a large rock outcropping and I wrote in my journal while Mabel patrolled for squirrels. I kept her on the lead as the road was close and I didn’t feel like providing chase when something captured her attention. She seemed content enough to follow the sun and it was peaceful there, looking down at a stand of woods. In actuality I could have been in a number of places that were not Yosemite, but I was most reminded of the greenbelt behind our old house in Mt. Misery. The trees, the sun, the leaves all made me feel like I was here before and I enjoyed this solitude, the road above us intermittently used.
A stopping point in my writing brought us back to the Tunnel View which was as spectacular this time as it was the first. I stopped along with others and just sat in wonder, staring at what can never be replicated by man. Disney is good at what they do, and I have felt like reality has at times been better portrayed by them, but they have no chance at this. Does the fact that we can’t create something on this scale make it all the better? I think so. In order to get the true feel, you have to come here, no virtual tour can fill your soul the way a simple stop-sit-gaze can.
Back in the Valley, the crowds thinner, I find a spot at the Visitors Center and make my required tourist purchases. This trip has provided me with an assortment of reading materials that will fill all of this winter and probably two more after that. I retrieve Mabel and we walk on the North side of the Valley heading towards the Lower Yosemite Falls. The trail is paved but still offers an element of nature until we pass through the Village with its Wilderness Center, Court, Museum and other varied buildings. The trail takes us close to the road and then back towards the fields leading to the mountains. As we walk, I see people looking at a mule deer grazing maybe five feet from where they are standing. A fence provides security for both but I don’t want Mabel to see and scare the deer so we give it a wide berth and continue on the trail to the falls.
It was a nice walk, the trees providing a canopy and homes for critters that leave a scent for Mabel. The base of the falls is rocky and people have found their spots where they can take photos or just stare upward at a wispy stream of water flowing from the top. A family is on the rocks, just above the pool, taking their Christmas card photo while another family sees themselves more at home in the water. The falls are beautiful, even with the people and commotion. I was tired from today’s walking so we left the park as darkness was just starting to push out the light.
Another night at the Mariposa KOA and it was almost as full as what we saw the previous evening. While cooking, I see a rental RV come in and park a few sites away. The rig was pulled in rather than backing, they don’t share my luxury of pushing the camper when necessary. But then, they have an inside bathroom and don’t have to scoot to enter their home. I gathered it was a German couple when the woman came over holding the electrical adapter in her hand and asked me how they plug in. I walked over and showed them the difference between their plug ends and what is used on the box. They rewarded me with beer, something I found very German. It was a Coors Banquet Tall Boy and they admitted not knowing the taste and I didn’t have the heart to tell them it is nothing like they were used to. That would have been bad manners.
We called it a night soon after and I was thankful to see Yosemite for a second time.